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Tuesday, April 12, 2005

America and "the arts"--the long goodbye

Well, no duh
I'm not sure where in the blizzard of quick skimming I've done in the last hour or so that this turned up (though it's almost certainly at Jerry Pournelle's site, probably in Current Mail), but it points out the excruciatingly obvious "dog bites man" story about most young Americans and anything that comprises real music, graphic art or literature.  A sample of "Why Literature Matters":
"According to the 2002 Survey of Public Participation in the Arts, a population study designed and commissioned by the National Endowment for the Arts (and executed by the US Bureau of the Census), arts participation by Americans has declined for eight of the nine major forms that are measured. (Only jazz has shown a tiny increase -- thank you, Ken Burns.) The declines have been most severe among younger adults (ages 18-24). The most worrisome finding in the 2002 study, however, is the declining percentage of Americans, especially young adults, reading literature."
Of course, the problem is many-faceted.  On the one hand, there was little of artistic merit that was both produced during the latter part of the 20th century (or is being produced today) and accepted as "art" by the tasteless drones of academia or their sycophants in the media "critics" (which is where art "certification" is "done").  Nah.  Most "serious" music, graphic, dramatic or literary "art" of the latter part of the 20th century was as crappy (if not more so) than popular "art."
That's one problem: when "art" is crap, why bother to partake of such snobbery when equally crappy fare is available in pop "culture"?
Another is that academia (and especially that portion devoted to the study of education and the training of teachers) has been focusing ever more carefully on producing stupid students.  When stupid people (whether it is their natural state or a state inculcated via the artifice of educrats) are presented with beauty, they tend to, at best, use it to wipe excrement from their nether regions. If they have the sensibilities to do even that.
Aw, shucky darns, heck and rot. And all that sort of weak [expletive deleted].  *sigh* Again, Holly Lisle pretty well describes why people ought not to read that which critics and academia proclaim as "literature"—at least, 20th century "literature"—in "How to Write Suckitudinous Fiction" (I keep telling you to GO READ IT. I'll wait.  Go.  Come back later for the rest of this rant.)
Back now? OK.  Her exposition of the problem of "Suckitudinous Fiction" also applies to "Suckitudinous" graphic, musical and any other art.  I'd say it has more to do with a loss of appreciation for beauty—no, make that Beauty—than anything else.  "Expression" is now a substitute for speech, art, music—a whole range of once very human things now made the equivalent of monkeys throwing feces at each other.
But when our schools turn out products that are the moral equivalent of monkeys (a less charitable person would probably argue that monkeys are the moral superiors of most "public school" products) in that each is just about equivalent in their ability to percieve and appreciate Beauty, Meaning, Love—all those silly passé values our parents once understood as eternal.
*profound sigh*
The subject matter of "Why Literature Matters"  is not news.  It's just sad. (And besides, the author misses the most important reasons why literature—or any art—matters.  Of course.)
I think I'm going to listen to some music, now.  Copland*, I think.  Maybe one of the Bs.  Nothing written or performed in "serious" or popular music in the last 25 years, though.  And while I'm listening, maybe I'll get a little deeper into Chesterton's Orthodoxy. I missed it when I was younger and just recently found a copy.  Maybe some good music and well-written prose can wash the taste of the 21st century out of my mouth for a little while.
(*Yeh.  It's not a sound clip.  It's a manuscript page. read it and weep. heh)